Panel: Biasing Knowledge? the Role of Interested Funders In the Creation and Interpretation of Science
(Science & Technology)

Thursday, November 8, 2012: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
D'Alesandro (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Abigail Brown, Harvard University
Moderators:  Antonio Sanfilippo, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Christopher Carrigan, George Washington University
Chairs:  Joshua Rosenbloom, National Science Foundation

This panel looks across several domains of knowledge—social science, nutrition, psychiatry and finance—and shows that in each domain, the significant sponsorship of knowledge creation by interested parties has the potential to cause serious harm to our understanding of that domain. While the effects are hard to measure, and the exact causal mechanisms may vary, there is a striking similarity across disciplines in the nature of the problem. We first present three papers on research in different fields and how that research has been distorted by the primarily financial interests of sponsors. The first paper looks at how the research agenda of nutrition science is distorted by the interests of the food industry, which sponsors research on health benefits but not harms. The second compares the experiences of contract program evaluators to the better-studied financial auditors to draw parallels between their experiences and identify potential leverage for improvement. The third paper looks at how conflicts of interest in psychiatry, and the American Psychiatric Association in particular, affects both the underlying science and the writing of practice guidelines that shape doctors’ prescribing patterns. The final paper in the panel takes a different, more abstract perspective. Rather than look at the problems in a particular discipline, it explores the potential dynamic social harm that may be done in the situations described by the first three papers, by looking at the harmful effects of misinformation on learning and technological change. These dynamic effects caused by the types of distorted information discussed in the first three papers add urgency to the argument that conflicts of interest engendered by funding research by interested funders could be causing significant harm to society. In addition to those interested in the role conflicts of interest plays in research, the papers presented in this panel session should be of interest to policy researchers whose work builds on the kinds of research we look at here. Those concerned with obesity research, medical cost containment, government program cost effectiveness, etc., all should be aware of the potential problems that distort research funded by interested funders.

The Systemic Distorting Effects of Industry-Sponsored Research On Food and Health
Jonathan H. Marks, Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University; Pennsylvania State University and Donald B. Thompson, Penn State

Independent Evaluation: Insights From Public Accounting
Abigail Brown, Harvard University and Jacob Klerman

Conflicts of Interest In Clinical Practice Guidelines: Implications for Public Policy and Guideline Development
Lisa Cosgrove1,2, Allen Shaughnessy3, Harold Bursztajn4,5, Emily E. Wheeler6 and Deborah R. Erlich3, (1)Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University, (2)University of Massachusetts, Boston, (3)Tufts University, School of Medicine, (4)Harvard Medical School, (5)Mass Mental Health Center, (6)University of Massachusetts, Boston, Department of Counseling and School Psychology

Destroying Creative Destruction: The Social Welfare Costs of Fraud
Abigail Brown, Harvard University and Simon Angus, Monash University

See more of: Science & Technology
See more of: Panel